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In this Jan. 8, 2009, photo provided by the Mesa County, Colo., Sheriff

‘Drone hunting’ licenses headed for the ballot in tiny Colorado town

Greg Campbell
Contributor

Voters in tiny Deer Trail, Colo., will vote in November on a plan to allow residents to shoot government drones out of the sky.

The town council split on the idea 3-3 during a somewhat combative meeting Tuesday night.

As first reported by The Daily Caller News Foundation, resident Phil Steel proposed the idea after seeing news reports of domestic spying by the National Security Agency.

Steel called drones an invasion of both privacy and of the town’s sovereign airspace. A resolution he drafted detailed the rules of engagement for people who hold “drone hunting” licenses to be issued by the town for $25 each.

License holders can only use shotguns to fire on targets below 1,000 feet. Should anyone down a drone, the town would pay a bounty ranging from $25 to $100 depending on the condition of the “trophy.”

Town officials have said the idea is more of a PR stunt than a civil defense measure, admitting to reporters that no one has actually seen drones flying over the town of about 550 people. They also have admitted that it would be tricky to blast one out of the sky using a shotgun.

It would also be illegal, the Federal Aviation Administration warned in a statement released specifically to address the town’s unusual proposal.

“Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane,” the statement read, adding that it’s also dangerous since damaged aircraft could crash out of the sky and injure someone or cause property damage.

While news reports show that many residents who attended Tuesday’s meeting were passionate about the idea — if only to assert their rights to privacy — others said it made Deer Trail look like a national laughingstock.

Despite a lack of targets over the town, one man said licensing drone hunters would inevitably lead to people firing shotguns within the town.

“They say, ‘Oh, it’s only a joke, you’re not going to shoot in town,’” resident Gary Lavoie told Denver’s Fox31. “People are going to shoot in town, believe it or not. This is a cowboy town.”

Regardless of whether Deer Trail ever sees a drone in its skies, Mayor Frank Fields supports the idea for a far more pragmatic reason — the money it could generate. Since the meeting, the town’s phone has been ringing “off the wall,” town clerk Kim Oldfield wrote in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“I have well over 400 people [on a waiting list for permits], and one person said their company in Texas would like to buy [one] for every employee,” she wrote.

Four hundred permits, if they’re issued, would equal a $10,000 windfall for the town.

“Even if a tiny percentage of people get online [for a] drone license, that’s cool,” board member David Boyd told Denver’s ABC7. “That’s a lot of money to a small town like us.”

“Could be known for it as well,” he said, “which probably might be a mixed blessing, but what the heck?”

Steel is said to have collected more than enough signatures from town residents to qualify the measure for the ballot. If so, residents will vote in November.

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